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In the Name of God, the Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful

This was my contribution to the My Jihad campaign, a national effort spearheaded right here in Chicago, to reclaim the term Jihad from the Muslim and anti-Muslim extremists alike.

Loss and Heartbreak

Every day, I get up early in the morning to try to help other people feel better by the Grace of God. Every day, I get up early – and sometimes come home very late – to help someone else have a little less pain. Every day, I live a dream come true: being a physician, and it is a blessing beyond measure.

I work in the field of Pulmonary and Critical Care, and so – every day – I take care of people who have been ravaged by the destruction wrought by cigarette smoking. I see people who cannot breathe because their lungs have been destroyed by said cigarette smoke, and I try to help them breathe a little better. In addition, I take care of patients who are critically ill and must stay in the intensive care unit for a time. In many instances, these patients are so sick to be near death.

And it is my honor to work as hard as I can to bring them out of their life-threatening illness. Being a doctor is a tough life, and many times it is a struggle that can be overwhelming. But is a struggle that I am privileged to undertake. Most of the time, by the Grace of God, the medical team and I are successful, and our patients can live to see many more years of life.

Sometimes, however, despite doing everything humanly possible, the medical team and I are not successful, and our patients succumb to their disease. And many times, I unfortunately must give families the bad news and help counsel them through the profound grief at the loss of their loved one. Yet, one time, the tables were turned on my wife and me.

It was on the day our daughter passed away.

Our eldest daughter was afflicted by a crippling genetic disorder called Ataxia-Telangiectasia, and as a result of this illness, she developed Diffuse Large B-cell lymphoma. After undergoing six cycles of chemotherapy, she developed septic shock: an overwhelming systemic response to infection. And despite a truly heroic effort on the part of her medical team, she lost her battle and passed away on June 7, 2009.

Ever since that day, my heart has been searing from a pain that is truly indescribable. Ever since that day, my wife and I have tried to pick up the pieces of our shattered hearts and try to move on. Indeed, the Lord has not abandoned us in our tragedy. He has given us so much joy in the years since. Nevertheless, the pain of her loss is still so fresh, so acute, that I sometimes cannot breathe from the agony.

What’s worse, everything at work reminds me of her affliction. Every ICU room looks like the one in which she died. Every time a patient needs to breathe with the help of a special BiPAP machine, it can remind me of when she went through the same thing. When I stand at the bedside of a patient with a similar type of shock, it reminds me of those truly horrific hours when my daughter was clinging to the shards of her fragile life. And I when I try to comfort a husband, or a wife, or a mother, or a daughter, or a son -screaming out in pain at the death of their loved one – it gives me a terrible pain in my heart as well.

There is not a day that goes by that I don’t remember my beautiful daughter and remember the terrible torture of having to watch her die in front of my eyes. There is not a day that goes by that my heart doesn’t scream out in horror that I lost my baby forever. Sometimes, I want to literally scream out – to try to comfort the devastating torment I endure each and every day.

But I don’t, and that is my Jihad.

“Jihad” is Arabic for “struggle,” and in Islam, “Jihad” is the sacred struggle to bring good in this world. It can mean different things to different people. For me, my Jihad is to keep myself together and not shrink away into a world of grief and sadness.

I do this for the sake of my wife, to try to be there for her and help comfort her even greater agony and terror. I do this for the sake of my surviving children, so they can know a happy life and not one with constant sadness. And I do this for the sake of my critically ill patients, so I can think clearly about the proper treatment plan they need so they can get better.

But, it is really, really hard.

And so, each and every day, I reach out to the Lord for His help and His comfort. I reach out to The Lord for His grace and mercy because, without Him, there is no way I could have made it this far. But, even with God’s help, the pain is still there, for losing a child is the worst thing a parent can endure. And it is a Jihad I will have to endure for the rest of my life.

She was alone, as she was wont to do, worshiping in the Eastern part of the Temple when a stranger entered into her presence. Startled, she immediately did what she knew best: turn to her Lord for protection.

“I seek refuge from you,” she told the stranger, “with the Most Gracious. Approach me not if you are conscious of Him!”

Yet, this was no brigand or criminal. He was a Holy Messenger, sent from the One on High, and he sought to assuage her fear: “I am but a messenger of thy Lord, who says: ‘I shall bestow upon thee the gift of a son endowed with purity.'”

She was shocked at this news.

“How can I have a son when no man has ever touched me, and I have not been an unchaste woman?” she asked in terror.

The Angel, again, sought to assuage her fear: “Thus it is, but your Lord says: ‘This is easy for Me! You shall have a son so that We might make him a symbol for humanity and an act of grace from Us. And it was a thing decreed by God.'”

And thus, as everyone knows, Mary became with the child Jesus.

This story that I quoted here is not found in the Bible. I took it from the Qur’an: Chapter 19, verses 16-21. In fact, the story of the birth of Christ is all over the Qur’an, as is the birth of Mary herself:

When a woman of [the House of] `Imran prayed: “O my Lord! Behold, to You do I vow [the child] that is in my womb, to be devoted to Thy service. Accept it, then, from me: verily, You alone art all-hearing, all-knowing!”

But when she had given birth to the child, she said: “O my Lord! Behold, I have given birth to a female” – the while God had been fully aware of what she would give birth to, and [fully aware] that no male child [she might have hoped for] could ever have been like this female – “and I have named her Mary. And, verily, I seek Your protection for her and her offspring against Satan, the accursed.”

And thereupon her Lord accepted the girl-child with goodly acceptance, and caused her to grow up in goodly growth… (3:35-37)

In fact, it is this event that Catholics the world over commemorate in their Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which is December 8. When I attended Marquette University, a Jesuit institution, I would get that day off, and it was always welcome. But, I had always thought that it was a day commemorating the conception of Christ. I was surprised – pleasantly – that it was about the Virgin Mary.

She, and her magnificent son, have always been highly honored and revered in Islam. I have grown up holding Jesus (and his mother) in the highest regard, as a mighty and magnificent Prophet and the Messiah sent to the Children of Israel. In fact, the Qur’an points to the Virgin Mary as the archetype of the believer, whether male or female:

And [We have propounded yet another parable of God-consciousness in the story of] Mary, the daughter of Imran, who guarded her chastity, whereupon We breathed of Our spirit into that [which was in her womb], and who accepted the truth of her Lord’s words – and [thus] of His revelations – and was one of the truly devout. (66:12)

No, as Muslims, we do not worship them as divine beings. That does not mean, however, that we hold them in contempt or would even fathom maligning them as, sadly, some followers Christ have done with our Prophet Muhammad.

The bottom line is this: Muslims, Christians, and Jews have so much more in common than in distinction. We worship the self-same God of Abraham; we revere all of His Prophets; we are all called to work together for the common good of our world.

Is it not high time that we, the Children of Abraham, forgo differences in belief and come together as servants of, not only our Lord, but all of humanity?

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Infinitely Merciful 

I can only share in a tiny amount of the elation of the people of Israel and Palestine over the cease-fire that was negotiated today. That both Israelis and Palestinians can breathe a little sigh of relief that no more rockets and bombs will rain down upon them is a very good thing. Yet, sadly, we have seen this before. We have seen the crying faces of parents, children, and loved ones before. We have heard the screams of innocent people many times before. When will it end? When will the leaders of both sides gather the courage to finally forge a lasting peace so that both Palestinians and Israelis can look toward a future full of hope?

A cynic (or realist) will say that this day is still a long way off. Yet, with God all things are possible. Thus, during this season of giving thanks, I raise my hands up in prayer:

Precious Beloved and Beautiful Lord our God!
Beautiful Holy One on High in Whose Hand lies all of our souls!
All Praise and Thanks go to You, Mighty King of Kings!
Lord! Precious Beloved! I thank Thee for the cessation of violence in the Holy Land.

Lord, I look at the crying faces of mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters and my heart cries out.
Lord, the cry of the child is no less heartbreaking whether it was Israeli or Palestinian.
Lord, the pain of the parent is no less horrific if it was Muslim, Christian, or Jew.

And so, my Beautiful Majestic Lord, please bring peace to the Holy Land!
Bring peace to the land which You have blessed for all time!
Bring peace to the place upon which Your Prophets and Messengers have tread!
Silence the guns of hatred and the rockets of malice for all time, O Lord!

Politicians and leaders do not have the courage to bring peace
So, Lord, give them that courage they so sorely lack!
Precious Beloved, let the smiles of children reign supreme in the Holy Land!
Let the laughter of children be the only noise that disturbs the silence of Peace!

Lord our God, both sides in this conflict raise their hands to You in prayer!
So, Bring the children of Abraham together in peace as the brothers and sisters they were meant to be
Bring an end to the violence and let the Holy Land be a place of safety and sanctuary
Let not the Holy Land ever be a place where the thud of bombs and rockets are commonplace

Let the Holy Land be a place of peace and solace
Let the Holy Land ring with the praises of Your Holy Name
Let the Holy Land be a place where we can all be one in Your Love

In Your Most Holy Name I do ask these things. Amen.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful 

I am tired of the election season. As I write this, a political campaign ad is playing on the TV. It is the same one I have seen time, after time, after time, after time, after time. I think half of our recycling bin is political campaign flyers. I don’t think I can take much more of this…

Still, despite my weary fatigue of politics, I voted early last Thursday. I took my daughter with me as well. There was no way I could not vote. In fact, I believe it is my sacred, religious duty to vote.

Islam demands excellence of me in every aspect of my life: excellence in my spiritual life; excellence in my social life; excellence in my family life; and excellence in my civic life. The Quran tells me that: “You are indeed the best community brought forth for [the good] of humanity: you enjoin the doing of good, forbid the doing of evil, and you believe in God.” (3:110)

That means that I must do as much as I can to promote the common good, and this has to include voting in every single election. Ideally, I should hold public office to try to help promote the common good myself. But, I am not cut out for politics; I am not cut out for a life in public service; I love being a doctor too much to leave it aside for a political career.

But I can vote, and thus I must do so in each and every election. It is the very least I can do for my country. My faith demands nothing less of me.

So, go out on November 6 and vote. Make your voice be heard.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful

Today is a most special day of the Hajj, the day of Arafat. It is said that, on this plain, Adam and Eve were first reunited after their expulsion from the garden. Standing on the plain of Arafat is the most important part of the Hajj. In fact, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was reported to have said that, “Hajj is the day of Arafat.”

On the plain of Arafat, pilgrims spend the entire day in prayer, meditation, and reflection. Then, from about late afternoon until the sun sets, pilgrims begin to beseech their Lord for forgiveness for all of their sins. It is a dress rehearsal for Judgment Day, when everyone will stand, alone, before their Creator and be called to account for their actions.

I remember this day as if it was yesterday. We stayed in a big, carpeted, and air conditioned place. It was sort of like a large warehouse, but it was actually quite comfortable. Food, drink, and tea was served throughout the day. From the morning through the afternoon, we spent the day praying, reading Scripture, and quietly reflecting. After the late afternoon prayer, however, the real emotion of Arafat came at me in full force.

A number of the pilgrims in our group got together and made a communal prayer to God for His grace and forgiveness. I preferred to be alone, all alone, with my God to talk with and beseech Him for His mercy. I could not stop the tears from falling. I thought about all the things I had done wrong; all the sins I committed; all the times I fell short of the Lord’s standards; and all I could do was weep.

The Plain of Arafat

I thought about how Beautiful the Lord had been to me, and how ugly I had been in return to Him. I thought about how Merciful He had been to me, and how ungrateful I had been through my sins. I thought about how Perfect He is, and how flawed and broken I was. And all I could was weep.

I bowed my head to the ground and begged my Creator to look past everything that I done wrong and take me in as I am: weak and flawed. I bowed my head to the ground and laid all my faults and shortcoming before the Foot of the Lord. I bowed my head to the ground and made no excuses for what I had done in the past. And I appealed to the Lord for His undying Mercy and Grace, for that was all I could do, and that was all I had left to do.

And as the sun set, elation set in because, as the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) told us, all of our sins would be forgiven. We would be born anew. In fact, the first sin one can commit after the day of Arafat would be to think that God did not forgive you for your sins. The power and emotion of that moment would stay with me forever. I felt totally rejuvenated, and my bond with God became even stronger.

When I first went to Mecca, I was quickly overwhelmed by the Awesome Power of God, fully symbolized by the Ka’aba. Yet, that feeling went away quickly, and He became a near and dear Friend and Companion. This strengthened to the greatest degree after Arafat, and I have leaned on that Friend and Companion ever so much  from that day forward.

I will never forget that day on the plain of Arafat: it was a day of powerful emotion and a day of powerful grace.

The tent city of Mina

In the Name of God, the Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful

Today marks the official first day of the Hajj. We had come back to Mecca from Medina (more about that later) and did another minor Hajj or umrah upon re-entering the city. Then, we headed to the tent city of Mina, where the pilgrims stay during the Hajj. It was a little strange, having to sleep in a large tent with at least 25-50 other people. But, on the Hajj, you learn to get accustomed to situation with which you are not familiar. So, I picked a small space on the carpeted floor, took my pillow, and slept.

There was major anticipation in my heart over what was to happen next.

To be continued…

 

 

This is the Ka’bah, the central shrine in Mecca.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

The decision was almost totally spontaneous: my wife and I simply looked at each other and said, “Let’s go to the Hajj this year.” That set in motion a series of events that culminated in the most powerful spiritual experience of my entire life. That was back in the fall of 2002; yet, the memories and feelings of the Hajj which took place in Februray 2003 are as fresh as if they had happened yesterday.

In the coming days and weeks, Muslim pilgrims – like me  all those years ago – are descending upon the Arabian peninsula to perform the annual Hajj, or pilgrimmage to the holy city of Mecca. It is a trip that every able bodied Muslim man and woman must perform once in his or her lifetime. It is a living re-enactment of the ancient drama of Abraham, Hagar, and their son Ishmael. I will recount my Hajj experience here on my blog, so you can get a taste of the awesome experience that millions of Muslims have each and every year in Mecca.

Back in the Fall of 2002, there were a lot of things that needed to fall into place for my wife and I to go: we had to get babysitters for our two children; I had to get coverage at work; we had to find a travel agency that will take us. Thankfully, everything went smoothly, and before we knew it, we were on our way to Frankfurt, Germany on the first leg of our trip to the holy city of Mecca. After we arrived in Germany, we prepared to go to Mecca, and we got dressed in the ihram, or the ceremonial dress of the pilgrim.

The ihram consists of two white and unstitched cloths with which we wrap ourselves (it is a little different for women). It the ultimate equalizer, as prince and pauper look totally alike. In this garb, we are stripped of our worldly rank and status and return to God and His House as servants and worshippers – nothing more, nothing less. In the plane, we started chanting the greeting that pilgrims since the time of Abraham have chanted as they approached the Holy House: “Here we are, O Lord! He we are, Here we are! There is no rival unto You!”

Our path to Mecca first took us to Jedda, where the all the pilgrims must first stop and get processed by the Hajj authorities. And there we learned the first lesson of the Hajj: patience. Everything in Jedda moved very, very slowly. We waited at least 12 hours for the buses that will take us Mecca. But, the wait was well worth it because, at the end of the wait, was the thing we all longed to see for our entire lives: the Ka’bah, the shrine – built by Abaraham himself – dedicated to the One God.

As the bus drove closer to the Ka’bah, I was struck by how “normal” Mecca seemed. It was like any other ancient city of the Middle East: dusty, cramped, and full of narrow streets and alleyways. It looked a lot like Cairo, to which I had been a few times before. But then, almost coming out of nowhere, I saw it: the Grand Mosque which held the Ka’bah. The mosque was the most beautiful I had ever seen. It seemed to glow, even though it was in the middle of the day. From where the bus was, I couldn’t see the shrine itself, and that only enhanced my anticipation and eagerness to go and see it.

My wife and I left our baggage at the hotel at which we were staying and almost ran to the Grand Mosque. And then, I saw it: the Ka’bah. The black cube stood there in front of my eyes, and I was struck with tremendous awe. Tears were streaming down my face as I walked closer to the shrine, praying to God for His grace and mercy the entire time.

It was so very beautiful, and it literally took my breath away. This was the thing to which I turned five times a day for decades; this was the thing which the Prophet Abraham and his son Ishmael built; this was the thing around which the Prophet Muhammad had walked all those years ago. And it was right before me, being my companion as I walked around the shrine – in the tradition of the Prophet Abraham – seven times in a counterclockwise direction. This is called the tawaf, and it is the special way in which this shrine is greeted.

After I finished my circumambulation, I walked seven times between the two hillocks of Safa and Marwa – just like Hagar did centuries ago – and finished my ‘Umra, or lesser pilgrimmage. It is not a requirement of the Hajj, but since we were already there – several days before the actual Hajj was to begin – we figured, “Why not?” Once we finished these rituals, I went back to the hotel and proceeded to shave my head as a symbol of my servanthood to God. It hurt…and bled, a lot.

Yet, despite this, the whole experience was awesome, and we spent several days thereafter in Mecca as “tourists”: eating, shopping, and praying in the holiest spot on earth for Muslims. Yet, for all the greatness of those days, the things we were about to experience were even greater.

To be continued…

In the Name of God, the Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful

The angry and, sadly, often violent protests that have erupted in several Muslim countries in response to the anti-Muslim video that surfaced on the Internet has left me terribly saddened. First, it always bothers me when I read or hear about or see the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) being maligned and attacked in a very vicious manner.

Yet, I get the same disquiet when any Prophet of God – Moses, Jesus, Abraham, Noah, or others – is maligned or attacked. Yes, people are free to say and believe what they want, but that doesn’t mean I have to either like it or be silent about it. Yet, I am very upset at the fact that seemingly devout Muslims reacted violently to the film: attacking the Embassy in Egypt and Yemen; attacking KFC and Hardees restaurants in other countries. I mean, come on, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) would never condone such violence, even if it is out of love for him.

Throughout his ministry, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was attacked, maligned, and mocked. Yet, he never reacted violently or told his followers to do so. His response was kindness and compassion, and it was this kindness and compassion that eventually won over his most bitter enemies. He was only following the commands of God in the Quran:

But [since] good and evil cannot be equal, repel thou [evil] with something that is better and lo! he between whom and thyself was enmity [may then become] as though he had [always] been close [unto thee], a true friend! (41:34)

That is the example we should follow as Muslims. Yet, sadly – and for a variety of social, economic, and political reasons, as well as a sheer lack of faith – some Muslims frequently do not follow the Prophet’s example.

Having said that, however, it is to be noted that the Muslim protesters that garner the headlines are a very small minority. For example, in Cairo – out of more than 9 million people – a few hundred protesters at best attacked the US Embassy. The TV cameras may have made it seem that the entire city came out – like during the Revolution – but it did not. The few do not, and must not, reflect upon the whole, just as the filmmaker who produced the anti-Islam film does not represent America or her people.

It has since surfaced that the filmmaker, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, is an Egyptian Coptic Christian who apparently deceived the actors into thinking they were filming a “desert action” film, and not an anti-Islam diatribe. And this made me reflect, and lament, over the frequent tension and enmity between Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Why?

We are all children of Abraham, the blessed Patriarch from whom all of the Hebrew Prophets and our Prophet Muhammad is descended. We all worship the same God, the God of Abraham. No, Christians and Jews may not accept the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as a Prophet. But, that is fine. They are free to choose whatever faith they want. We Muslims accept, love, honor, and revere Jesus, Moses, and all the Prophets of God, peace be upon them all.

All we ask is that we respect our Prophets and not attack and malign them: all of our Prophets, not just the Prophet Muhammad. And, truly, this should not be so difficult, given the extensive commonalities between Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Yet, all too often, we children of Abraham forget these commonalities and focus on the differences, seeking conflict because of them. Why?

The Quran says this:

Unto every one of you have We appointed a [different] law and way of life. And if God had so willed, He could surely have made you all one single community: but [He willed it otherwise] in order to test you by means of what He has vouchsafed unto, you. Compete, then, with one another in doing good works! Unto God you all must return; and then He will make you truly understand all that on which you were wont to differ. (4:48)

It is part of God’s plan that there will be different faiths and different spiritual paths. What does God want us to do? He wants us to compete: not in the number of converts; not in the number of conflicts; not in the number of times we attack or malign each other’s holy Prophets (which Muslims would never do). No, He wants us to compete in doing good for the sake of all.

Why can’t we heed the call of God?

In the Name of God, the Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful

It has been sought out for time immemorial: the key to long life. Legends have spoken about a Fountain of Youth, but such a fountain has been elusive. More recently, however, there has been talk about calorie restriction as the key to living longer. Studies have been conducted, and there was some promise:

The idea that a low-calorie diet would extend life originated in the 1930s with a study of laboratory rats. But it was not until the 1980s that the theory took off. Scientists reported that in species as diverse as yeast, flies, worms and mice, eating less meant living longer. And, in mice at least, a low-calorie diet also meant less cancer. It was not known whether the same thing would hold true in humans, and no one expected such a study would ever be done. It would take decades to get an answer, to say nothing of the expense and difficulty of getting people to be randomly assigned to starve themselves or not.

Researchers concluded the best way to test the hypothesis would be through the monkey studies at the University of Wisconsin and the National Institute on Aging, although the animals would have to be followed for decades.

Now, the major study that was started in 1987 has been completed, and the results are in: calorie restriction did not prolong life. The results of the study were published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature:

For 25 years, the rhesus monkeys were kept semi-starved, lean and hungry. The males’ weights were so low they were the equivalent of a 6-foot-tall man who tipped the scales at just 120 to 133 pounds. The hope was that if the monkeys lived longer, healthier lives by eating a lot less, then maybe people, their evolutionary cousins, would, too. Some scientists, anticipating such benefits, began severely restricting their own diets.

The results of this major, long-awaited study, which began in 1987, are finally in. But it did not bring the vindication calorie restriction enthusiasts had anticipated. It turns out the skinny monkeys did not live any longer than those kept at more normal weights. Some lab test results improved, but only in monkeys put on the diet when they were old. The causes of death — cancer, heart disease — were the same in both the underfed and the normally fed monkeys.

Lab test results showed lower levels of cholesterol and blood sugar in the male monkeys that started eating 30 percent fewer calories in old age, but not in the females. Males and females that were put on the diet when they were old had lower levels of triglycerides, which are linked to heart disease risk. Monkeys put on the diet when they were young or middle-aged did not get the same benefits, though they had less cancer. But the bottom line was that the monkeys that ate less did not live any longer than those that ate normally.

When I first heard of the idea that practically starving oneself may be the key to living a long life, I said to myself: Why? Why would I want to deprive myself of one of the greatest things God has given us (especially after Ramadan) – food and drink – in order to live longer on this earth? Especially on this earth?

Now, I don’t believe in living one’s life with a death wish. I have lived through some very dark days, but I never considered suicide. God forbid. But, that doesn’t mean that I would go to extremes  – like starving myself – to live longer. Life and death are in God’s hands, not ours.

Of course, I know – as a doctor – that if someone lives a very unhealthy lifestyle (smoking, eating an unhealty diet, drinking to excess, etc.), it is likely that this person would live a shorter life than the average lifespan of an American. Yet, for that person, his or her lifespan is his or her lifespan.

If it is in God’s plan for that person to live 80 years, despite being totally unhealthy, then that person will live to be 80 years old. Conversely, even if someone lives the most healthy life possible, if it is God’s will that he will die at age 24, like my cousin, then that is the life that he will live.

I often joke by saying this: “I would rather die six months earlier than I would normally have and eat my ________.” And I would fill in that blank with a variety of things: Taco Bell (yes, Taco Bell), chocolate cake, cheesecake, frozen custard, etc. That point is: we should live a life of moderation.

Live as healthy as possible, because it will make it more likely that we will avoid the scourge of disease. Yet, it is ok to enjoy an indulgence (by this I mean desserts or potato chips…) every once in a while, to make life fun and lively. But, I don’t think we should go to extremes (like starving ourselves) in order to live longer. That’s because I believe there is a life and a world after this one.

And in that life, I will be with my Beloved forever. Starving myself to stay here longer is just not worth it.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate and Infinitely Merciful

“We made it.”

Those were the first words of my Friday sermon yesterday. At long last – very, very long last – the month of Ramadan ends today. And although I did enjoy the prayers and the special time I had with the Book of God, the fasting did take its toll. And thus, I make this prayer as the hours slip away towards the end of the month:

Precious, Beautiful, Beloved Lord my God!
Precious, Beautiful Beloved One in Whose Hands rests my soul!
Precious, Beautiful Beloved One Without Whose Grace I would be dead and gone!
Lord, I have tried my best to be faithful to Your call to fast the days of Ramadan.

I know that I should have been so full of glee for the opportunity to fast.
But, as only You would know best, I did have some dread out of my own weakness.
And so, Precious Beloved Lord, please forgive me for that weakness in my soul.

Precious Beloved! Forgive me for all the times that I grimaced in discomfort for having to fast.
Forgive me for all the times that I did not fast with a complete and total smile on my face.
Forgive me for all the times that I yearned for the month of fasting to finish and finish quickly.

Precious Beloved Lord! Please accept my fast, even though it is defiled by my human weakness.
Please accept my reading of your Holy Word so that I pass the time remembering You in Your Majestic Glory.
Please accept the times I prayed the night vigil for Your sake, trying to get closer to Your Alighted Face.
Please accept my acts of kindness, forgiveness, and forbearance during this month and for the rest of the year.

Precious Beloved Lord! Please take me into Your Presence when my time has come.
Please accept me as I am: weak and pathetic, unworthy of all the bounty which You have bestowed upon me.
Lord, please, do not stop the blessings you have sent my way. Nay, Beloved, increase those blessings day by day.
Please extend the glorious blessings that this month of Ramadan has throughout the rest of my days
And, please, Lord save me from Your terrible punishment both here on earth and in the hereafter.

In Your Most Holy Name I do ask these things, Beloved Lord. Amen.